Lately I've been much more on the feeling-like-a-failure side of this fence. My quite energetic, tantrum-prone, strong-willed child was going through a difficult phase, and I was having a rather hard time dealing with it. After lots of introspection, prayer, reading parenting books/articles, talking to my husband and my mom, I'm feeling a bit better. Why? Because after all of this I've come up with a fabulous list for you that is a "sure-fire guaranteed way to be a good mom."
Ready for it? Here's my list:
1. Love your kids and let them know you love them.
Seriously, that's what it all boils down to. Sure, there are tons of different ways to do this. And I certainly haven't perfected it yet. But at the end of the day (or at the end of many years when your child is all grown up) what they're going to remember is that you loved them.
I remember so vividly when my babies were born, and holding them for the first time, and being filled with more love than I ever imagined. And it's that powerful, eternal love that I try to hold onto, to bring back to the surface, in the moments that are a bit more challenging.
Somehow in the chaotic monotony of everyday life, we still know that we love our children - that never changes - but sometimes it takes a backseat to dealing with life. Yet I've discovered that if I actually let that love take the steering wheel, the road gets so much smoother.
I usually don't get particularly religious on this blog, but I don't feel I can talk about this subject any other way. But I think the ideas and principles can apply to everyone.
I was reading in Corinthians recently, the chapter on charity, and some things struck me a bit differently than usual. The beginning of the chapter lists all sorts of wonderful attributes and acts, but then says if you have all these attributes, do all these wonderful things, but don't have charity, it's worth nothing.
So we can be the best mom in the world based on how clean our house is, how smart our kids are, how picture-perfect everything is, but if we don't love our kids, and show them that love, none of it matters.
The next thing that struck me from this chapter was the oft-quoted line: "Charity never faileth." Now I know it means here that charity is dependable, can be counted on to not vanish, cease, etc. as the verse goes on to say. But it struck me that it can be applied here in another way:
If we have charity, we cannot fail. If we show love toward our children, we cannot fail.
Will this automatically make everything in life perfect? No, of course not. There are still the daily challenges of life, the frustrations, the sleeplessness, the piles of laundry and dishes, the tantrums (from you or your kids - I won't judge), and all that comes with just being human. But if we're trying to act from a place of love and charity, it gets a lot easier. When I find myself acting out of frustration, anger, fear, or any of the other negative emotions that take hold, I try to take a step back, take a deep breath (or 20), and come back to the situation from a place of love.
I recently read a parenting book that I actually recommend: Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey. She breaks parenting down into "The 7 Powers of Self-Control" which coincide with "7 Discipline Skills", which lead to "7 Values for Living."
As I was reading, especially the 7 Values for Living, I couldn't help but think that these were basically characteristics of Christ. She doesn't connect it to religion or religious beliefs in her book, but how could I not see the attributes of Christ in such ideas as compassion, integrity, empathy, and allowing our children to exercise free will, but teaching them to act responsibly?
So this brings me back to 1 Corinthians 13, and how the attributes of charity are the attributes of Christ, and therefore the attributes of a good parent.
Charity suffereth long - be patient with yourself, and with your children, and with the never-ending cleaning, diaper changing, midnight-feedings, laundry, "why mom?"s, homework help, and everything else that comes with being a mom.
and is kind - show them love and kindness in your words and actions
charity envieth not - this one's a bit different in a parenting approach. To me, it means to not compare to those other moms out there who seem to have it all together. We all have good times and bad times, and not everyone sees the bad times. Just keep keep having charity!
charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up - be humble, willing to learn from your mistakes, and apologize. Sometimes it's hard for me to apologize to my kids; I somehow got it in my head that they should think I'm perfect and know everything. But I'm not, and I don't, and I need to set that example for them of humility and teachability.
Doth not behave itself unseemly - apply this one how you will. Maybe try to keep your tantrums to screaming in your pillow in private :)
seeketh not her own - put the needs of your family and children first. Yes, there are times where you absolutely need to take care of yourself to be capable of taking care of your family. But (at least for me) there are other times where I'm just being lazy/selfish and would rather do what I want than what my children need.
is not easily provoked - hmm, that temper of my son's? He gets it from me. This is where the taking a calm breath(s) comes in, or sometimes a time out for both of us! That way, when I/we have regained composure, we can better deal with the problem in love not anger.
thinketh no evil - I'm gonna take a little liberty on this one from what perhaps the actual Biblical meaning is, and apply one of the ideas from the book mentioned above. We need to assume positive intent in our children's behavior, rather than "thinking evil" of them or their behavior. If we assume negative motives when they misbehave, it leads to more conflict. But if we ask their intent, or assume positive intent (e.g. "you hit your brother because he took your toy and that upset you" rather than "you hit your brother because you're mean and horrible") then we can work together to solve problems instead of working against each other.
rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in truth - find joy in the beauty of parenting, the little moments of sweet, pure love; another scripture says "truth is knowledge of things as they are" - find joy in the now. Find something every day to rejoice in. Even if it's just one thing. Even if it's just that you made it through another day!
beareth all things - this one goes nicely with "suffereth long" for me. There will be tough days. But keep charity in your heart, and it becomes so much easier to bear!
believeth all things, hopeth all things - Have faith! In yourself, and in Christ. Over these past few months, I've come to know that I can't handle being a mom on my own strengths, knowledge, or abilities. But I don't have to. I already have the perfect example, and I just need to have the faith to follow Him.
endureth all things - I don't think I need to say much more on this one, other than you can do it! Refer back to "suffereth long" and "beareth all things."
Charity never faileth - Like I said before, if we have love, we cannot fail.
Being a good mom (or dad, or person) is less about the things you do, and more about the person you're trying to be.